Many moons ago, I was traveling with an international youth group in Spain when a friend from Venezuela asked me to explain the reference “reach out”.
“Every day I hear people say, ‘we need to reach out to the people’ and I do not understand this word. What is this ‘reach out’?”
I started to explain to him in Spanish that “reach out” meant the spiritual groping – no, that’s not right – it’s kinda like your energy goes out of you – no, that’s not it, either. It’s like your need to make people feel good resembles an arm coming out of your heart and…well, that didn’t work either. My ability to communicate this abstract but common metaphor was useless.
We went to a fluent Spanish speaker and asked her to translate “reaching out”. Without even looking up, she said, “Darse.”
Perfect. Stunned, I realized that I’d used the phrase “reach out” all the time without really understanding what it meant. I had to get the word translated from English to Spanish and back again to really get the translation and the true meaning: to give of one’s self.
Preparing for the SOBCon07, the Successful and Outstanding Blogger Conference in Chicago, May 11-12, 2007, I was hunting for a better definition of blogging and relationship building when this memory bubbled to the surface. What better definition of blogging than “to give of one’s self”?
When we blog, we are giving part of ourselves to others. We are sharing our thoughts, insights, concerns, issues, feelings, and our stories with others. For some, blogging means sharing ourselves with the hope of making the world a better place. For others, blogging means sharing their interests in the hope of attracting other like-minded folks.
Blogging is a two-way street of communication. You share your insights, and your readers respond. Over time, you understand that their comments are as much part of the content of your blog as your contributions. Your readers give you insights into what you say, nudge and push you along with your thinking, they encourage you, motivate you, and inspire you to blog better and more. In time, you learn that what they have to say is just as important as what you say. In giving of yourself, you get so much back in return.
I recently heard a blogger say she thought her “blog comments are about ‘me’ and not my readers.” How sad. This person’s totally missed the point of a blog. Blog comments are about your readers, and often have very little to do with you. When they comment on your blog, they want to share a little of themselves with you. They want to share themselves with others reading your blog. They want to reach out to you and the community you have build with your blog. It has nothing to do with you, but with them and their needs.
Your blog is a safe place for them to reach out and connect with the world around them. It’s a place where they can give of themselves.
It’s the Relationships You Build That Make You Money
For those who want their blogs to be a vital part of their business, be it the business of blogging or using their blogs for reputation building, advertising, and corporate good will, it’s the relationships the blog forms that changes the dynamics, and can increase your profits.
The “old thinking” of advertising was push and pull. Pushing advertising at the customer and pulling them in with “must buy” pressure. The new thinking of advertising goes back even further, to a time when the only reason you shopped at a particular grocery store or banked at the bank on the corner is because they knew your name, and the names of your children. You shopped for friendship, you shopped for loyalty, and you returned because of the trust. They knew who you were.
In a world stuffed with nameless instant gratification, sometimes people want to know who they are buying from. They want a personal face on an impersonal world.
Why do you think that someone like Robert Scoble is so desirable (and risky) that companies are falling over themselves looking for Scoble-clones to talk their business and industry? Because his blog put a human face on a complex, fast growing industry. His plain, personal talking style, “just talking to the folks”, almost borders on the old style of neighbors gossiping over the fence. You look at his patchwork blog, his pithy or rambling blog posts, and you think “he’s a real human being” not a plastic advertising marketer. “He’s just like me!” Bingo. Connection made. Relationship built.
Your blog is the virtual “face” of your business. Learning how to manage your blog to build relationships means learning to write in a relationship-building style. You need to word your content to be inclusive, drawing the reader in, asking them questions they want to answer, making them think, now and four hours from now. Writing to be remembered.
It means learning what your readers want. It isn’t about assumptive demographics any more. The buying public has gotten smarter. They are researching their purchases and investments. They want to understand what it is they are buying. You need to tell them what it is they are buying from you. How it will benefit and improve their lives. How it personally impacts your life and the lives of others.
You want to put that human face on your business and give them the help they need in order to use your product and services better. What can you provide to make you the trusted expert they will choose because they now have a relationship with you, not the shop down the street?
In other words, instead of selling your stuff, you need to reach out and show them you are worth buying from. You need to “give of one’s self” to begin the process of building trust and a relationship.
The closer the Successful and Outstanding Blogger Conference gets, the more I realize that successful blogging isn’t about the numbers, counting how many visitors, how many comments, how many feed readers, or how many Diggs. It isn’t about how much money and how high you got on the top blog charts. It’s about the relationships you have with your readers, with those who comment, those who hold conversations on your blog, and with yourself as you blog. That’s what really counts.
I think the producers of the conference chose their first theme, “building blog relationships”, very wisely. Blogging is about the relationships created with your blogs.
I see I still have a lot to learn about the relationship aspect of blogging, don’t you? It’s the relationships that will make the concept of Web 2.0 really come true and move us into a new economy and future.
Over the next two weeks I will be writing more about the concepts of the relationships we form with our blogs, and the relationships readers form with their favorite bloggers. I’d love to know what you think about these relationships and what topics you would like to see discussed.
Lorelle VanFossen blogs about blogging and WordPress on Lorelle on WordPress.
Article Series on Blog Relationships
- Building Blog Relationships: Reaching Out
- Linking Relationships
- Building Relationships With Your Most Popular Posts
- Building Blog Relationships: Making a Good First Impression
- Blog Relationships: Fishing With Lures and Bait
- Blog Relationships: Are You Listening To Your Readers?
- The Relationship Conference: Building Blogs Through Interaction